12/28/2012 06:24 pm ET Updated Feb 27, 2013

The Missing Link in Your Battle to Lose Weight

How many of you are frustrated with the number you see on the scale? After the holidays, many more of us are raising our hands, reflecting on all that we ate and drank. This is the time of year many people make New Year's resolutions, and my guess is that one of your goals is to lose weight.

While I thought I had a handle on the whole diet and exercise thing, it wasn't until I had a conversation with a friend who struggled with weight loss that I realized the missing component for me was not physical or food-related, it was mental. This same friend suggested that I read Dr. Judith Beck's book, The Beck Diet Solution, after he used the tools in the book to lose over 100 pounds and keep it off. In it, I discovered that weight loss has just as much to do with the way you think about food as the food itself.

My schedule will always be busy, and time will always be tight, but I now think differently about food and dieting. Dr. Beck identifies nine common thinking traps that sabotage weight loss. They are as follows:

1.) All-or-Nothing Thinking

You see things in only two categories and ignore the fact that there is a middle ground.

Sounds like: "I'm either successful at dieting or I'm a failure."

2.) An Overly Negative Crystal Ball

You predict the future in an overly pessimistic way without considering other possible outcomes.

Sounds like: "Since I didn't lose weight this week, I'll never be able to lose weight."

3.) An Overly Positive Crystal Ball

You predict the future in an overly optimistic way without considering other possible outcomes.

Sounds like: "I'll be able to eat these cookies that I'm craving and then stop."

4.) Emotional Reasoning

Drawing conclusions about your actions based on your emotional state.

Sounds like: "I feel so angry about eating that ice cream -- I must really be a failure."

5.) Mind Reading

You're sure you know what others are thinking, and you expect them to know what you're thinking.

Sounds like: "My co-worker will think I'm rude if I don't eat that cake she brought for her birthday."

6.) Misleading Thinking

You rationalize by telling yourself something that you really wouldn't believe at other times.

Sounds like: "The calories in this pie don't count because it's the holidays."

7.) Rules That Don't Help

Mandating actions without taking circumstances into consideration.

Sounds like: "I can't inconvenience my kids by removing all of the junk food in the house."

8.) Justification

You connect unrelated concepts to justify your eating.

Sounds like: "I deserve to eat this because I'm stressed out and tired."

9.) Exaggerated Thinking

You blow a situation out of proportion.

Sounds like: "I have no will power."

Sound familiar? I can justify a reason to eat just about anything sweet, and because I'm so hard on myself, I often exaggerate my thinking or slip into all-or-nothing thinking. The way you think about food, eating, and dieting impacts your behavior -- how you feel about food and the actions you take as a result.

The key is to identify your inaccurate thinking and notice patterns that undercut your ability to lose weight (for example, maybe you're a mind reader at work but have many rules that don't help at home). Once identified, replace your inaccurate thoughts with more helpful ones. This takes practice and patience, but it's a key component that is missing from so many weight loss programs in this country.

Here's to a future with happier numbers on the scale!

For a simple worksheet to get you started, please email me at

Paula Davis-Laack, JD, MAPP, is an internationally-known writer and stress and resilience expert who helps busy professionals manage stress so they can lead healthier, happier, and more resilient lives. Paula is available for keynote presentations, media commentary, and private life coaching.

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Beck, J.S. (2008). The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person. Birmingham, AL: Oxmoor House, Inc.

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